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As the impacts of climate change continue to wreak havoc on communities across the globe, US Latinos are calling on leaders in Washington to do something.
The new Biden presidential administration—one that has voiced its support for science and wants to do something about this issue—is working to make headway, despite four years of environmental rollbacks and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, communities of color, who will face the most significant harm, need wide-sweeping and immediate change, according to Ben Monterroso, a board chair of the national non-profit, Corazón Latino.
“The strong support for the environment and climate action among Latinos continues a trend that has been building for years,” Monterroso writes in a recent USA Today op-ed. “Our elected officials should remember that political reality. And just in case they don’t, we will be there to remind them that we can protect our environment and power up the economy simultaneously.”
Why is Environmental Action Needed Now?
In Texas, which is home to one of the country’s highest Latino populations, families across the state just experienced a deadly winter storm.
Temperatures below zero and snowfall resulted in rolling blackouts, major car accidents, as well as water loss throughout the Lonestar State. This harmed countless people — especially people of color who already face many socioeconomic barriers.
Moreover, in 2018, Hurricane Harvey rocked Houston and other cities near the coast. These kinds of extreme weather events are directly linked to the changing climate.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened these problems, according to Corazón Latino’s Monterroso.
“Latino voters see an opportunity to tackle two important problems facing their communities— climate change and unemployment,” he writes in a recent USA Today op-ed. “The Latino Decisions poll revealed that Latinos who have suffered job loss during the pandemic and make under $50,000 a year are more likely to support our government not only investing but prioritizing commonsense clean energy and green infrastructure solutions.”
In 2017, Yale University’s Program on Climate Change Communication discovered that roughly three in four Latinos perceive global warming as a matter of immediate importance. But most Americans underestimate just how concerned Latinos and other minority groups are about environmental threats, according to a 2018 Cornell University study.
How Are Latinos Urging for Change?
First and foremost, they are garnering community support in hopes of bringing about grassroots change.
Some organizations are focusing on changing hearts and minds, too, according to Serenella Linares, co-chair of Naturally Latinos, a bi-annual event that aims to garner support among Latinos.
“For the longest time, it was a matter of perception, that Latinos didn’t care, or were unaware of the environmental issues that we face today,” Linares told Maryland Matters. “These [are] really big perceptions [about us] that we need to fix.”
Once that community’s support is earned, big things can happen — including calls for action from the majority of Latinos.
“Latinos are demanding healthier communities,” Corazón Latino’s Monterroso writes in a recent USA Today op-ed. “They recognize that dirty power plants are a major source of air, water and climate pollution and are often located in their communities. They see investing in clean energy as well as electric trucks and buses as a means of building economic security for their families and neighbors while also making their communities cleaner and healthier.”
Past polls have shown that Latinos will support climate change policy.
“In fact, half of Latinos (50%) think the United States should make large-scale effort to reduce global warming, even if it has large economic costs, compared to 33% of non-Latinos, according to a recent English and Spanish survey by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication,” according to a Salud America! report.
Moving from car-centric to more walking and active transportation is another big key.
“More Latinos walk and bike instead of drive cars than non-Latinos, which could be the key to address climate change and health equity,” according to a Salud America! report.
What Can I Do to Help?
Impactful legislation is the main options to make significant headway in this issue, experts say.
Still, there are ways that any person can make an impact.
One of those ways includes how you vote, according to Corazón Latino’s Monterroso.
“President Biden campaigned on the notion that the environment and economy are completely intertwined,” he writes in a recent USA Today op-ed. 64% of eligible Latinos voted in the 2020 presidential election. “This is one aspect of the incoming administration’s emerging priorities that resonates deeply with the Latino constituency, whether Republican or Democrat.”
Parents and residents also can help leaders make change by getting involved in neighborhood associations and local committees, boards, and commissions. These groups rely on your input to shape plans and policies that impact health and the environment in your area.
“City boards and commissions are … how our community navigates the daily and weekly decisions that make El Paso run smoothly and to become the kind of community we all want,” according to the City of El Paso.
You can share important environmental information with your local leaders, too — if you’d like to continue making a difference in your community’s sustainability practices, you can download a Salud America! Health Equity Report Card.
The report card will show you how you will see how your county is doing on a variety of health-related conditions compared to the rest of your state and nation. The data will show how your area stacks up in education, as well as housing, transportation, poverty, healthcare, mental health, environmental issues, and access to healthy food and active spaces.
Email your Health Equity Report Card to community leaders, share it on social media, and use it to make the case to address food insecurity where help is needed most!